Mike Woodson's plan to get the Knicks off to a better start in noon games still needs some work. But the bigger issue is winning games no matter when they begin.
Despite starting a big lineup, the Knicks were dominated inside in their 95-87 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday at the Garden and were booed on several occasions.
It took a furious comeback late to make it that close, as the Knicks cut a 19-point fourth-quarter deficit to four with 25.6 seconds left. They fell to 8-18 overall and 4-10 at the Garden after losing only 10 home games in the entire 2012-13 season.
Although Grizzlies center Marc Gasol remains out with an MCL sprain, Memphis built a 56-29 rebounding edge and outscored the Knicks 60-28 in the paint. "That's very disheartening,'' Tyson Chandler said.
"That's embarrassing, especially when you start a big lineup,'' Woodson said. "We couldn't keep them out of the paint. That was the problem.''
Starting Chandler, Carmelo Anthony and Andrea Bargnani did nothing to counter the Grizzlies' size, and the Knicks didn't match Memphis' effort.
The Grizzlies got many easy and mostly uncontested baskets, especially in the last 29:19, when 19 of their last 25 field goals were dunks or layups.
"We have spurts where we're just dead out there,'' Anthony said. "I [couldn't] care less about offense right now. It is just on the defensive end, we are very inconsistent right now.''
Anthony scored 30 points but was the only Knicks starter in double figures. The other four shot 6-for-25 and totaled 17 points. J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. each had 16 points off the bench.
Former Knick Zach Randolph had his way with Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire, finishing with 25 points and 15 rebounds as Memphis ended its losing streak at five games. Tony Allen had 19 points and eight rebounds.
The Knicks have been abysmal in noon starts at home this season. They lost to the Spurs by 31 on Nov. 10 and to the Celtics by 41 on Dec. 8, quickly falling behind by large margins each time. Hoping to change that, Woodson had the Knicks stay in a hotel Friday night and said, "I'm not going to let them hang out.'' Anthony said bedtime was 10 o'clock.
After falling behind 17-8, the Knicks went ahead by three in the second quarter, but things went south from there.
"We have these lull moments,'' said Chandler, who looked winded in his second game back from a broken leg. "It looks like we can't get anything with our offense. Same thing defensively, where we're kind of just letting guys fly to the paint, messing up rotations. We have our highs and our lows seems like in one game.''
The Grizzlies opened an 85-66 lead when Kosta Koufos scored inside with 6:12 left. The Knicks answered with a 12-2 run capped by a three-pointer by Anthony that made it 87-78 with 3:49 left.
Randolph's runner and Allen's fast-break layup off Bargnani's turnover made it 91-78 with 3:02 to go, but back-to-back three-pointers by Smith and Anthony cut it to 91-84 with 1:40 remaining.
Anthony's turnaround jumper with 59.2 seconds left made it 91-86, and the Knicks had a chance to get within three on the next trip, but Chandler made only the second of two free throws with 25.6 seconds to play.
After Jerryd Bayless' two free throws with 22.3 seconds left, Smith missed inside, and Allen's breakaway layup sealed it.
"The rebounding was so lopsided, it didn't really put us in a good position to win,'' Woodson said. "We made the late run, and that was out of sheer guts and just playing all-out, but you've got to do that for 48 minutes, and I've got to get them to do that.''